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National Wildlife Refuge

2145 Key Wallace Drive
Cambridge, MD   21613
E-mail: fw5rw_bwnwr@fws.gov
Phone Number: 410-228-2677
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Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, located 12 miles south of Cambridge, Maryland, was established in 1933 as a refuge for migratory waterfowl. The refuge includes more than 27,000 acres, composed mainly of rich tidal marsh characterized by fluctuating water levels and variable salinity. Other habitat types include freshwater ponds, mixed evergreen and deciduous forests, and small amounts of cropland and managed impoundments that are seasonally flooded for waterfowl use.

Originally established for migratory birds, primarily ducks and geese, Blackwater is one of the chief wintering areas for Canada Geese using the Atlantic Flyway. Geese number approximately 35,000 and ducks exceed 15,000 at the peak of fall migration, usually in November.

Blackwater is also haven for two of our nation's threatened or endangered species. The bald eagle (which has been upgraded from endangered to threatened) and Delmarva fox squirrels are regularly seen on the Refuge.

Getting There . . .
Take Rt. 50 into Cambridge, MD. Turn south on to Rt. 16 at the Wal-Mart shopping center (across from the entrance to the Hyatt Regency). Travel approx. 7 miles to the town of Church Creek. Turn left on to Rt. 335. Travel approx. 4 miles, then turn left at Key Wallace Drive. Travel 1.5 miles to the Visitor Center, or 3 miles to access the Wildlife Drive.

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Wildlife and Habitat

The varied habitats of Blackwater from open water to dense woodlands, promote a diversity of wildlife that change in numbers and species with the seasons.

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Before its designation as a Refuge, the marshland along the middle Blackwater River was managed as a fur farm. Muskrats were the primary species trapped. Most of the wood lands, including the islands, had been timbered at one time. Remains of old drainage ditches and furrows which crisscross in some existing woods indicate past agricultural use.

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Management Activities
Refuge programs specifically designed for waterfowl include management of the brackish marsh to produce succulent natural foods and management of impoundments (man-made ponds) to provide freshwater habitat. A variety of crops are planted and native plants are encouraged, providing an array of foods to meet the nutritional needs of migrating and wintering waterfowl. Although waterfowl hunting is not permitted on the Refuge, hunting is extensive on surrounding areas.

A winter trapping program, regulated by the Refuge and accomplished by trappers under a special permit, provides protection for fragile marsh vegetation by lessening the impact of foraging furbearers. All management programs are carefully monitored to ensure the best interests of wildlife resources.

Endangered species are a special responsibility at Blackwater. One of these species is the Delmarva fox squirrel which once ranged from southeastern Pennsylvania, South throughout the Delmarva Peninsula. This large, steel-gray squirrel was declared endangered in 1967, when it could be found in only four counties along Maryland's Eastern Shore. The loss of suitable woodland habitat (due primarily to land clearing) is the major factor in the squirrels decline. Forest management programs at Blackwater are designed to restore and protect forest habitats that are essential for the long-term viability of this endangered species. Protection and relocation programs over the past 3 decades have expanded the squirrel's range on the Delmarva Peninsula.

Our national symbol, the bald eagle, once listed as an endangered species, was ungraded to threatened status in 1994. This means that they are still protected, but thanks to the hard work of Fish & Wildlife Service and a great many others, the bald eagle is making a comeback at the Refuge and around the country. Like other birds of prey, the eagle's decline stemmed from causes endemic to our times - pesticides, pollution, irresponsible shooting, and human encroachment. The Refuge offers constant protection for this diminished species. Today, over 60 active active bald eagle nests can be found in the refuge and adjoining properties.